Obstructive Sleep Apnea

from The American Lung Association

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disease that interrupts sleep by stopping and starting your breathing. Those with OSA have airways that repeatedly collapse when throat muscles relax during sleep, blocking the flow of air. The disease causes snoring and choking or gasping during sleep.

  • OSA is a common condition, especially affecting those who are overweight.
  • Risk also increases with age.
  • Because sleep is interrupted, people with OSA usually are sleepy during the day and sometimes feel irritable, forgetful, unable to concentrate or less alert.
  • OSA may occur along with hypertension, heart disease and other major medical problems.

What is OSA?

OSA is a condition where your airways narrow or close during sleep, stopping airflow and causing apneas—short periods when you're not breathing. Apneas often happen repeatedly throughout the night, interrupting your sleep and leaving you tired after you wake up. Often people with OSA don't know they have the disorder.

How OSA Affects Your Body

Daytime sleepiness, forgetfulness and irritability are just some of the ways OSA may affect your health and wellbeing. People with OSA often feel like they haven't slept at all, even if they sleep for the recommended seven to nine hours each night. Because they wake up often, people with OSA don't get high-quality sleep. In addition to being sleepy during the day, not getting enough sleep may make it harder to concentrate, or could make you forgetful, irritable and foggy-headed. Kids who have OSA often become hyperactive instead of sleepy.

OSA is associated with developing high blood pressure, stroke, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, cardiac rhythm disturbances, and difficulty controlling blood sugar levels. Because of this, treating OSA is very important for your health.

How Serious is OSA?

OSA is a common disorder that's becoming even more widespread. In the United States, about 10% to 30% of adults may have OSA. OSA can cause serious accidents in the workplace or while driving. Motor vehicle accidents are at least twice as likely to happen when people with OSA are behind the wheel compared with drivers without OSA. OSA also is associated with developing heart and vascular disease. If you have untreated OSA, you're two to three times more likely to have a fatal or nonfatal heart and blood vessel issues, including heart attack and stroke.